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Does Alcohol Affect Birth Control

Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol doesn’t lessen the effect of birth control
  • However, if you take birth control, you may metabolize alcohol more slowly
  • Drinking alcohol may result in more frequent unsafe sex decisions, leading to sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Birth control does not prevent STIs

How Does Alcohol Affect Birth Control?

Alcohol doesn’t affect the efficacy of birth control pills. Plenty of women take birth control pills and still drink alcohol.10

The only time that alcohol may impact the effectiveness of your birth control is if you drink too much that you vomit within two hours of taking the pill. 

Drinking too much alcohol may also cause you to forget taking your birth control pill, which can affect its efficacy.11

Alcohol doesn’t affect the pill otherwise. It also doesn’t affect any other form of birth control.11

Does Birth Control Affect Alcohol Metabolism?

While alcohol does not affect your birth control, the opposite can be true. Taking birth control can affect how you metabolize alcohol.1

People who take birth control may process alcohol more slowly than those who do not take birth control. This is because your liver must metabolize both the hormones in your birth control and the alcohol you consume. Therefore, alcohol stays in your system longer.1, 2

During your menstrual cycle, when you release more hormones, you also tend to stay intoxicated longer.1

Other Risks of Drinking Alcohol on Birth Control

The major risks of drinking alcohol while on birth control are:

  • If you drink too much, you may get sick and vomit up your pill
  • If you drink too much, you may forget to take your pill
  • If you drink too much, you may be more likely to engage in unsafe sexual behavior 
  • You may be more prone to error using barrier methods like condoms while intoxicated
  • You may feel drunker for longer, which can put you in dangerous situations, such as drunk driving

If you forget to take your pill, you should take it as soon as you remember.4 The pill is less effective in preventing pregnancy when it’s not taken on a regular schedule.

How to Prevent Birth Control Failure Before Drinking

Many women are better regulated when taking the pill every day and at the same time. You shouldn’t adjust it for drinking alcohol. Most experts recommend taking birth control in the morning. 

If you take a birth control pill before a night of heavy drinking, nausea and vomiting are a risk. In this case, you may not be able to keep the pill down.

Also, if you plan on drinking and engaging in sexual activity, consider carrying backup methods of birth control with you.

Additional Tips for Preventing Pregnancy & STIs 

To prevent pregnancy while drinking alcohol, always make sure to have birth control. Whether you are on the pill, opt for condoms, or use another type of contraceptive, make sure to use something.

The withdrawal method is especially not a good idea while intoxicated as alcohol slows down your responses and may lead you to making risky and impulsive decisions.

Unprotected sex is unsafe sex. Keep backup birth control options with you in case condoms, caps, or other contraceptives break.

Also remember that most methods of birth control do not prevent STIs (sexually transmitted infections). It’s important to protect yourself from infections as well. Only barrier methods like condoms can help to prevent you from contracting STIs.7

Have an honest conversation with your partner about when they were last tested. You should also get tested between sexual partners and be honest if you have not been recently tested.6 

Communication makes for safer sex.

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Updated on March 28, 2022
11 sources cited
  1. Alcohol.” Alcohol | Student Health and Counseling Services.
  2. BM;, Jones MK;Jones. “Ethanol Metabolism in Women Taking Oral Contraceptives.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  3. Brown University.” What Are the Side Effects of Birth Control Pills? | Health Promotion | Brown University.
  4. Combination Birth Control Pills.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Dec. 2020.
  5. Contraceptive Use in the United States by Demographics.” Guttmacher Institute, 28 May 2021.
  6. General Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention Tips. UCSD.
  7. How to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (Stis).” ACOG.
  8. Ingersoll, Karen S, et al. “Risk Drinking and Contraception Effectiveness among College Women.” Psychology & Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2008.
  9. Planned Parenthood. “Birth Control Methods & Options: Types of Birth Control.” Planned Parenthood.
  10. Planned Parenthood. “Does Drinking Alcohol Affect How Well My Birth Control Works?Planned Parenthood.
  11. Planned Parenthood. “What Are the Side Effects of Birth Control Pills?Planned Parenthood.

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